Interview: Dominique Cyprès

Today we’re joined by Dominique Cyprès. Dominique is a phenomenal writer who has dabbled with various forms including fiction and nonfiction. Their first love is poetry and they have written plenty of different kinds of poetry. They have a story in Unburied Fables, an anthology from Creative Aces. It’s obvious they’re a passionate and dedicated writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’ve dabbled in a lot of different sorts of writing – from fiction to creative non-fiction, poetry in both verse and prose. As someone with an overlapping interest in tech, I’ve also experimented a little with interactive fiction. I’m really interested in what new ground can still be broken with Infocom-style text adventures.

I’ve also forayed a little into video editing and stereographic photography. I’m pretty much the prototypical “jack of all trades” in that I keep trying new media and I don’t often stick with one and try to master it. In the end, though, everything seems to come back to poetry. I often find that when I’m working on fiction, or text adventures, or visual media, I’m compelled to find a way to inject poetry into that medium.

What inspires you?

My primary motivation in making art is a sort of practical mysticism; my goal is to give voice to the enormous wonder and bewilderment I feel trying to make sense of both the natural world and interpersonal interaction. As an autistic person, I often find myself in the sort of situation that Temple Grandin refers to as being “an anthropologist on Mars.” The world often seems an altogether foreign place to me, and my art (when I have the time to make it) acts essentially as fields notes on this inscrutable country.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

The artistic role models who have most informed the direction I take in poetry are probably Emily Dickinson, Miyazawa Kenji (whose work I have read only in English translation), and Charles Simic. Dickinson and Miyazawa together really pulled me toward poetry as a medium in the first place, and their biographies and work share certain themes in common. Both were disabled and regarded as odd by their communities. Both expressed in their work an immense love of humanity and of nature, but wrote from a perspective of looking upon these subjects from the outside, and both wrote largely for themselves and did not manage to sell much of their work to professional publications during their lifetimes.

Simic’s influence on me comes through his seminal Pulitzer-prize winning volume The World Doesn’t End, and largely has to do with his pioneering work on the form of prose poetry, and his use of ambiguous and discordant sensory images to cultivate what poets refer to as “negative capability,” the ability to draw art out of questions that have no answers, out of confusion and non-rational thought.

I tend to think of art as something I am inclined to do, and not as a feature of who I am, perhaps because I’ve long had it drilled into my head that writing poetry alone is not a viable professional path for someone who needs to support themself and their family financially. I’ve heard this even from former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand, who derives much of his personal income from his work as a college professor.

As a young person I wanted to devote my life to art in some way professionally. As I neared the end of high school I told my parents I wanted to study acting full-time in college and choose that as my field. They asked where I would find the money to feed myself and I didn’t really have an answer, so I studied psychology instead, and wound up dropping out of college after three years when I reached a point where my undiagnosed learning disabilities had started to make it impossible to complete my coursework.

At that point, in 2012, my self-esteem just bottomed out entirely, and one thing to I did in an effort to pull it back up was to take a bunch of poetry I had been working on while I was at school (where I was pursuing a creative writing minor) and build on that work, flesh out its themes a little bit, and compile it into a book I could have printed through a major self-publishing-platform. That was Dogs from your childhood & other unrealities. I had neither the money nor the energy to engage in any serious promotion for it at the time, but being able to share my work with some appreciative friends in that manner was the kind of encouragement I needed.

Now I’m working on a new volume of poems. It’s necessarily very different from my last book, because I’ve changed a lot since 2012. It’s in verse, whereas my last book was entirely in prose. It’s much more concerned with overtly political questions, with the relationships between the wage worker and their work, with the struggles of a young and growing family. I hardly find time to work on it, as a full-time retail worker, part-time student, and parent, but I’m excited to share the personal growth I’ve experienced in this form.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I often feel that I’m walking a metaphorical tightrope in my work, attempting to balance impulses toward self-deprecation, disillusionment, and cynicism on one hand and an irrepressible sense of naïve wonder on the other. That’s a feature of my everyday life, too, but I expect it comes out a lot in what I make.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice would be to try to hold on to your art, to what you do that moves you on a deep level, even when it doesn’t pay the bills. And if you have to step aside from making art because you’re depressed or just too busy struggling to survive for a while, you need not be ashamed. Go back to your art when you’re ready and let it accept you with open arms.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual, and I’ve identified myself as such since age 20 when I first heard about other asexual people. I’m quoiromantic. I’m married now; I have two spouses and a child, and the fact that I’m asexual doesn’t come up very often in my day-to-day life. But if I had never identified myself as asexual in the first place, I probably wouldn’t be married now, because it was identifying as asexual that allowed me first to accept myself for who I am, and then to find people who understood and accepted me enough to start a family with me.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

There’s a strong push for writers of creative non-fiction and poetry today to candidly confess intimate details of their personal lives, and that very often includes one’s sex life and sexuality. That can be an uncomfortable demand for an asexual writer and I encourage other writers to share only what they can share confidently. As it happens, though, I have made very few connections “in my field”, so I don’t yet have any direct experience with ignorance around ace issues directed at me as a writer.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

As much as you can insist to people that asexuality is your sexual orientation, some people will be determined to see it as a medical symptom that you should somehow be treating, or as an ideological position. There’s only so much myth-dispelling educational material you can provide to someone before it becomes a waste of time.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

The decision to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet, and not as a proper planet, was an arbitrary taxonomic exercise, motivated by mounting discoveries of Pluto-sized objects in our solar system. Essentially, if we continued to count Pluto as a planet, there would be so many newly-found planets of similar size that we could never hope to make elementary school children memorize all their names. But Pluto is still out there in the Kuiper belt, and it’s still an important target for scientific research.

Similarly, your experiences as an asexual person are real and an important part of your life even when other people find it inconvenient to acknowledge them.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Dogs from your childhood & other unrealities is still available in print and as a free e-book via my blog. My next book, tentatively titled dead monochrome doggerel, is still in the works and I’ll be sure to announce it on my blog when it’s ready.

Thank you, Dominique, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: cxxxxxxxx

Today we’re joined by cxxxxxxxx. cxxxxxxxx is an incredibly versatile artist who has dabbled in almost everything but has most recently focused on zines. She has a great love for art and it’s very apparent this love has transferred into making zines, which are fascinating. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with a lot of stuff it feels like—poetry, fiction stories, nonfiction and more personal writing, drawing and painting with different kinds of pens and paints and pastels, making collages—but this summer I got into making and putting together zines and I can put all those things inside of a zine on a given topic, so I’ve been having a lot of fun writing and drawing for zines on dancing, creativity, my gender identity, romance stuff. I get stuck a lot when it comes to my art and writing but I’ve made a lot of things this year especially that I like to look back at now.

What inspires you?

I don’t follow a lot of artists but this semester I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about Dada and the Beat Generation and learning about those movements and reading their writings/looking at their art/collages and I feel really inspired by these artists and writers that look at a given society and create art to oppose it and express their own views. I like to put on films about stuff like that or just political movements in general and spend the whole time sitting at my desk painting and drawing. Watching Stranger Things really inspired me to draw some cooler stuff, too.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid and started drawing my first year of high school because a lot of my friends were into it and I really kind of idolized them. I’ve always felt like I had a lot to say but I’m abysmal at talking to people, so I’ve always liked being able to express myself and my thoughts in writing; there’s something special about it, I think.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Not really, to be honest. I’ve never been really consistent with that sort of thing.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I spent years drawing not because I enjoyed it but largely out of a desire to improve so that I could enjoy, and I don’t think that’s the right way to go about creating things. Make what you like, and if it doesn’t turn out how you wanted it to, find things about it that you like anyway. Draw because you like to draw, not for the sake of other people. Something like that.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as aromantic and asexual, although technically slightly gray-asexual is probably most accurate.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not really? In everyday life a majority of people I knew up until college didn’t even know it existed (me being one of them for a long time, too). I’ve seen people make prejudiced comments online and expressed some of my anger about such comments in poems I’ve written about being ace.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Mainly the one that I can’t be happy in the future without a partner, but I don’t think that’s true. I experience depression and anxiety frequently but dating someone/etc. wouldn’t change that, and I do feel happy and excited about enough things (poetry, history, playing guitar) that I don’t feel I’ll be missing something when I’m older. There are a lot of things I want to do someday and I don’t need another person to do them or in order to feel happy and fulfilled, I think.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

I have a tendency to over-think things of that nature and make myself anxious wondering how I’m supposed to look and be and identify, but my best friend advised me to try not to worry like that and just accept myself even without labels and I think she was right about that. For me, anyway, it’s easy to get caught up in anxiety when I don’t identify with any known labels for gender identity or sexual/romantic orientation, but lately I’ve just been trying to be the person I like being and feel comfortable being and I think maybe that’s helping. So I think I’d recommend trying that, just going with the flow of things and how you might feel.

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Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My zines are online to read here.

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Thank you, cxxxxxxxx, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Hayley Thorpe

Today we’re joined by Hayley Thorpe. Hayley is a phenomenal young up and coming writer who has dabbled in many forms of writing. She is incredibly passionate about poetry and has recently embarked on writing a novel. Aside from that, she has written quite a few other things. It’s very apparent that Hayley has the soul of a writer and has a very bright future ahead of her. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a writer! For the longest time, I favored poetry, although I did dabble in fiction, creative nonfiction, and script writing in high school. However, this summer, I embarked on the great journey of writing a novel, which has been interesting to say the least. I took a four-year magnet program in high school in Literary Arts. I have won three Honorable Mentions and one Silver Key from The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and have self-published a collection of poetry entitled Heart Sounds.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by my favorite writers (such as Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Billy Collins). I am also inspired by writers with whom I attended school, many of whom are now self-published. I am hugely inspired by music, and the playlist for my current novel includes bands such as The Strokes, Wilco, and The Maine.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I like to say that it’s in my blood. I always loved to read, as did my mother and my maternal grandmother before me, and my paternal great-grandmother loved to memorize and recite poetry. But for me, I met a lot of authors through school events growing up, and I wanted to be the one signing books at a table one day. I wanted to see my books in stores. I did a lot of creative writing in elementary school, but didn’t start enjoying what I produced until middle school. But once I realized how rewarding it was, I never looked back.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I always try to include artists and writers in my works of fiction. Lately, there’s also been a restaurant that is a figment of my own imagination that often pops up in various projects.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Specifically for writers, I would say read everything. Read fiction and poetry and plays, even if those aren’t what you typically write. Read “good” writing and “bad” writing and figure out what makes it “good” and “bad.” Try to do something writing-related every day, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. Realize that publication isn’t everything.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual with romantic feelings towards women.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not as of yet, since I very recently came out as asexual, but I’m hoping for the best!

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

As I said, since I only recently came out, I haven’t encountered many things directed at me, but I think it’s bizarre when people think we can’t feel romantic feelings or that we can never feel sexual attraction. Asexuality, like many orientations, is a spectrum, and each asexual has their own unique feelings and experiences.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Talk to someone. I was really lucky that I had friends who were willing to let me talk through it, and I also had a friend who was experiencing the same confusion I was and asking the same questions. But also realize that at the end of the day, you know yourself the best. Don’t let people put a label on you that you’re not comfortable with, and try to remember that they won’t necessarily have all the answers.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

The purchase link for my book is here: https://amzn.com/0615964389 and you can also preview it there. I’m trying to get a website up, so stay tuned!

Thank you, Hayley, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: James Wylder

Today we’re joined by James Wylder.  James is an incredibly talented and versatile writer who I met at this year’s Indy PopCon (it’s always wonderful to run into a fellow ace at conventions).  He has written in a variety of genres including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and plays.  He’s definitely a writer we’ll be seeing more of in the future.  My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write, and I write in a ton of different mediums. I’ve had published fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and plays, as well as several produced plays such as “Cryptos” and “Rex Stout Rings Again!” and a free RPG module from Shotgun Angel Games. I’m always open to trying new things, experimenting, and pushing my writing into areas I’ve never explored before. Some of my best works have come from the act of pushing myself into emotional areas I was uncomfortable exploring, as well as formats and styles I wasn’t sure about. That willingness to try anything thrown at me has characterized me as a writer more than anything. I’ve produced extremely serious works, such as my play “Paper Gods”, but also very lighthearted books like my book of poetry about the TV show Doctor Who “An Eloquence of Time and Space.”

Right now I’m working on a giant project called 10,000 Dawns, which is a serialized story that releases a chapter every week furthering the adventure, and also features an audio book version of the chapter and unique art to accompany it by Annie Zhu. It’s been crazy trying to co-ordinate and balance everything, but the response has been great so far!

What inspires you?

I’ve always found this question difficult, because the answer changes so often. My fluttering between genres, styles, and tones has benefited from my many inspirations, but it does mean I’m often at a loss on how to inspire myself when I find myself hitting a road block in my work.

I suppose variety itself inspires me, the vastness of the world and the many differences between people and places large and small fascinate me!

Music is a constant inspiration and motivator for me. I always am listening to something while I write, usually a playlist with a David Bowie song on it.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. My dad used to read me Michael Stackpole and Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels by my bedside, and I wanted to grow up to tell stories like that! I made books as a kid before I could even write, asking other people to write the worlds I wanted written down on the page and doing the (messy) illustrations myself. I’ve wanted to tell stories my whole life, it’s my honor to have that chance now.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I didn’t realize it till it was pointed out to me, but every single major work I’ve written contains at least one Doctor Who reference. It was my favorite TV show since I was, oh, three years old or so and its had a deep impact on me.

On a more personal level, I love having a symbol within a work that contains half of one thing, and half of another. Sometimes it’s literally, like the half-sun/half-moon symbol that crops up in 10,000 Dawns, but sometimes it’s more subtle. Things in our lives are never so simple as one thing, and I like seeing the shades between them.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I’d give three fold advice: 1. Don’t give up. 2. Don’t reject your own vision for being too “out there”. 3. Be realistic about your own work.

Perseverance is key, as is having a unique way of seeing the world and expressing it, but also you have to recognize that some things might not have a market worth selling to, and that an editor wanting to help improve your work isn’t ‘corrupting’ your vision.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m hetero-demisexual, heteroromantic cisgender male. In a lot of ways this made me feel very uncomfortable coming out to my friends in the LGBTQIA+/MOGAI community because I didn’t feel like I was “not-straight enough”. I still struggle with being open about my identity with people. I have choked up more than once and just said I’m straight, or that “my friend is on the ace spectrum…” I’m not proud of that, but not everyone has always been accepting.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I’ve had a few instances of ignorance from fellow creators, namely a person who told me that I wasn’t really on the ace-spectrum because I should have known I was already, and shouldn’t have had to discover it, as well as some other minor bits and bobbles.

I have to work with a lot of ignorant people in my field, so I’ve developed a polite distance from many. I’ve learned to separate people I can work with on a business level from people I can trust on a personal level. Those people who overlap are truly special to me!

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That it’s not real, and that I just want fancy words for myself so I can feel “special”.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

That it’s okay to be who you are, even when other people don’t get it, and that it’s okay to struggle with it and feel uncomfortable. You have so much baggage from how society has told you to think about sex, and your own sexuality to unpack, and there is no shame in not being okay while you work through it. Just don’t be alone in it, and don’t do anything you’ll regret. There are people who will love and support you, even if you haven’t found them yet!

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Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

The best place is my website, jameswylder.com where I post up all sorts of fantastic things!
I’m also on twitter as @arcbeatle,
On Facebook as: James Wylder, Writer
And you can find me on Tumblr at tardistogongen.tumblr.com, but fair warning that its mostly just things I really like that I find and reblog.

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Thank you so much, James, for participating in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Elyssa Tappero

Today we’re joined by Elyssa Tappero.  Elyssa was one of the first followers of the Asexual Artists WordPress site and she’s a very talented and prolific writer.  She writes a bit of everything:  poetry, flash fiction, haiku, and many other writing styles.  My thanks to her for taking time out of her schedule to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

By day I have a 9-5 desk job that really isn’t worth describing. By night (and sometimes during the 9-5 desk job . . .) I write. And write. And write. Flash fiction, haiku, free form poetry, spiritual offerings to Bast, the odd non-fiction or persuasive piece . . . whatever sparks my inspiration. I’m not interested in being published, which is good news for the folks who like my writing – everything I write I post on my WordPress blog, which I update every other day. I can’t say it’s all good writing, but there’s always something new!

Since this is an ace-themed interview, I’ll also note that all of my characters (okay I only have like three of them) are somewhere on the ace spectrum. I’m also working on a story about a succubus who falls in love with an asexual girl, but that’s still in the preliminary “how cool would this be” stage.

What inspires you?

I hate to say “everything” so I’ll hit the big themes; relationships, sexuality, myth and fantasy, nature, religion, and more recently mental illness. The main focus in my writing is my two characters, Tanim and Daren, through whom I explore varied relationship types and structures, the power of our past to shape and haunt us, and the sometimes blurry line between love and obsession. Which sounds dramatic, I know – I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m inspired by characters who are human, as flawed and diverse and complicated as that means.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Honestly, I’ve always been a writer. When I was about six I wrote my first “book” – it was about how to train your cat, and when my girlfriend read it out-loud some twenty years later I laughed so hard I cried uncontrollably. I literally ended the book with a picture of myself and the line “Thank you for reading. I’m done now. Bye.” Suffice it to say my writing has improved a bit over the years, but I owe it all to that poorly colored book . . .

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?

My characters die. Often. And repeatedly. That’s not really a signature or feature or anything, but it’s probably worth warning new readers. No one’s safe. Sorry in advance.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t get rid of anything you create. I know a lot of people feel ashamed of their old work, especially when it’s old fanart or otherwise linked to the stuff you may have been obsessed with as a kid. But I promise you, you’ll want to look back on that work to see how far you’ve come – and to see how long you’ve been devoted to your craft. Never be ashamed of your old work; we all had to start somewhere, and it’s the fact that you started at all, and continued from there, that counts. So go back, look at old drawings or read old writing, and don’t wince. Let yourself smile and remember how proud you were when you created that piece.

(And laugh until you cry, if you need. That’s okay too.)

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a queer asexual. To me, the word “queer” serves as an umbrella term for those aspects of gender and sexual/romantic orientation that don’t have a specific term already, or simply can’t be labeled. So when I call myself a queer asexual, I call myself that because while my sexual orientation is definitely asexual, my other orientations and relationships aren’t so easy to define. Queer seems the best way to show other people that the aspects of me that may seem defined or clear-cut are much more complicated below the surface.

And, to be honest, there are so many people who are adamantly opposed to allowing asexuals into queer spaces that it makes me want to cling to this label that feels “right” to me even more. I hate identity policing, and I try to speak out against it whenever I can. I don’t think people realize just how hurtful and damaging their words can be when they try to silence or shove out queer asexuals.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

When it comes to writing, I usually get questions about how I can write realistic relationships when I’m asexual and only have very limited experience with romantic relationships and sex. Depending on the person (and how crazy I do or do not want to sound) I’ll either say that a good writer should be able to write about any experience (true), or I’ll say that I let the characters tell me what to say (truer). It doesn’t matter if I haven’t experienced something myself; if my character has, they can let me experience that memory through them.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Honestly? That we don’t face discrimination or oppression. I get that from straight and queer people alike, and it’s very disheartening. Aces face much of the same oppression as others in gender, sexual, and romantic orientation minorities, yet it can be a battle to convince people that our experiences are valid.

I also hear a lot about how romantic relationships between allosexuals and asexuals can’t work. Well, my girlfriend and I just celebrated 20 months together and we’re doing wonderfully. So if anyone out there has questions about mixed orientation relationships, or wants advice for their own, or just wants someone to talk to, I’m here. I know how hard they can be, and how beautiful and rewarding, and I want to help anyone who’s in the same boat as me.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Two things. First, you don’t need to pick a label right away – and when/if you do pick one, you don’t have to identify with it forever. Take your time, test different ones out, and see if any fit. If one does, great! If not, also great! It’s okay to not have a label. It’s okay to switch labels. It’s okay to be uncertain or questioning. Just because others might try to fit you into certain boxes doesn’t mean YOU have to put yourself in those boxes. You are the only person who gets to decide how you identify. No one else can determine what you can or can’t identify as.

Second, asexuality isn’t an exile sentence. If you’re someone who is asexual and still interested in a romantic relationship, please don’t feel like you’ll never find someone who will love you for who you are. Despite our sexually-focused society, there are a lot of people out there who will be willing to forgo sex for you, if that’s what you want. And just because you’re asexual doesn’t mean you can’t have sex if you’re comfortable doing so with your partner. Nothing you do will make your asexuality less valid.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

All of my writing is posted to my WordPress, which can be found at http://onlyfragments.com/

You can also follow me on Tumblr at http://only-fragments.tumblr.com/, where I usually reblog pictures that remind me of my characters, asexuality-related posts, and other such things. I love new friends!

Thank you so much, Elyssa, for participating in this interview and this project.  It is very much appreciated.